DENVER — Could the Democrats be about to nominate the wrong Obama?
Well, probably not. But Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, gave an awfully good speech at the Democratic National Convention last night. While Barack can sometimes soar off into the clouds, Michelle tends to keep things down to earth.
“The Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago,” she said. “He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands.”
She was describing a simple moment, a real moment, an emotional moment and one that made only one point: Barack Obama is a human being just like you. He is not an “other,” he is not a “celebrity.” He is a father, a husband, a person.
Michelle went on: “And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they — and your sons and daughters — will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming.”
Which is not bad for a surrogate.
And then something followed that is virtually unheard of at a political convention: an unscripted moment. In a live video hookup with Barack, who was in Kansas City, the two Obama daughters — Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, who had joined their mother on stage — simply talked to their father. He asked them how they thought their mother had done in her speech.
“I think she did good,” Sasha said.
“I think so, too,” Malia said.
And then Malia said, “We love you, Daddy.”
And Sasha said, “We love you, Daddy. Bye.”
True, that moment and Michelle’s speech could not outreach the most emotional moment of the evening: Ted Kennedy’s address, his “Lion in Winter” appearance that literally brought tears to the eyes. (To my eyes, anyway.)
But the Obama campaign did not want it to. It merely wanted to show an American family, an appealing American family, an ordinary American family — or as ordinary a family can be in which one member is running for president.
True, Michelle Obama’s speeches on behalf of her husband for the last 19 months have not been without controversy. In February, to a crowd in Milwaukee, she said: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”
So Michelle had to explain that she has always been proud of her country, too. “What I was clearly talking about was that I’m proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process,” she said.
And with that it was stipulated that all the spouses of all the candidates had been proud of their country since birth, if not before.
Monday night, Michelle did hit the campaign’s talking points, carefully praising Hillary Clinton, “who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters — and our sons — can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.“
And also Joe Biden, “who’s never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.”
But she made the speech hers, and she made it a good one.